Tragedy yet to change bad driving habits
Last Thursday’s tragedy on Shannon Lake Road, which resulted in the death of 74-year-old Stewart Tuningley, has left West Kelowna citizens wanting safer roads.
Tuningley was voluntarily picking up garbage as part of an Adopt-A-Highway crew. He was struck by a pickup truck, which was being driven by a 34-year-old man.
Kelowna RCMP Sgt. Ann Morrison said that the Central Okanagan Traffic Services section is continuing to investigate the incident.
“Our unit had a meeting (Monday morning). The topic was brought up and they still continue to have that file. They’re continuing to gather the traffic analyst’s reconstruction report,” said Morrison.
Although Kelowna RCMP are still determining whether or not speed was a factor in the accident, members of the Westbank Lions Club are saying that speeding is a common problem on Shannon Lake Road, and it needs to be stopped.
“We’re all, of course, still trying to come to grips with Stu’s needless death. But it seems, to at least some of us, that speed must have been the main contributing factor to the incident,” said Fred Masson, a member of the Westbank Lions Club.
“A number of our club members live in the Crystal Springs complex and all of them have indicated that the 50 km/h speed limit along that particular stretch of Shannon Lake Road is seldom observed.”
Masson added that despite last week’s tragedy, cars are still speeding along the road.
“(Tuesday) morning I was traveling along Shannon Lake Road at the posted limit and had no fewer than four other vehicles tailgating along the stretch from Crystal Springs to the Shannon Lake Golf Club,” he recalled.
“One of them passed me, illegally, at a high rate of speed.”
Masson said that the fatality may affect the Lions Club’s willingness to participate in future Adopt-A-Highway efforts.
“I can’t speak for the Lions Club, but I know that we will be giving very serious consideration to ceasing any participation in the Adopt-A-Highway initiative until the district and the province can give the public some positive indication that they are seriously considering methods to stop the speeding.”
Ted Bens, a Westbank Lions club member and West Kelowna Citizens Patrol volunteer, said that he has had Speed Watch equipment set up on Shannon Lake Road on numerous occasions.
“Shannon Lake Road is dangerous, but it need not be. Speeding is the prime reason. The speed limit is 50 km/h; however, we regularly clock some vehicles exceeding the limit by 30 km/h or more,” said Bens.
“Usually a third of the vehicles exceed the speed limit; we come up with the same numbers on other main roads where we set up our equipment (as well).
Bens said that in his own experience driving on Shannon Lake Road, he has found that drivers are usually very impatient towards law-abiding drivers.
“I don’t know if there is a solution other than vigorous enforcement by the RCMP, but Shannon Lake Road is not the only road that is troublesome,” Bens said.
“The RCMP do not have the resources to be on all roads at all times.”
The news of Tuningley’s death was tough to handle for District of West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater.
“I knew Stu and most of council knew Stu as well. It’s been a real shock,” said Findlater.
Despite many speaking out about the needs for improvement on Shannon Lake Road, Findlater said that he has only received three complaints about the road over the past four years.
“That road is actually reasonably good in the sense that there’s a sidewalk along there. Had he been on the other side of the road he would’ve been on a pedestrian sidewalk,” Findlater said.
“The big issue, and it’s everywhere, is speeding.”
Findlater explained that Shannon Lake Road is a development cost charge road.
“As with many roads, when we accumulate the resources from development, from external resources, from grants and put money into reserves from taxation, we’ll be upgrading these roads, he explained.
“This is our biggest challenge as a new municipality. We had development approved by the regional district, but roads maintained by the ministry of transportation and highways to a rural standard. And they’re built to a rural standard.”
Findlater said that having developments connected by rural roads is a problem in an area with 28,000 people plus the Westbank First Nation.
He said it is a challenge deciding how and when to upgrade the roads.
“Do you hit the taxpayer to go out and do (upgrades) or do you earn money through development and put the money aside and then try to lever other money with that?
“We can’t build everything to capacity ahead of time, we have to earn money in order to actually do these things; otherwise, the taxpayer would be facing 10 per cent a year.”